Monday, August 15, 2016

No Longer Strangers

“…I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” Matthew 25: 35b

This past year we were disturbed watching thousands of migrants from Syria on the move to Europe desperately trying to find a better life. Compassionate Canadians were affected by the humanitarian crisis especially when we saw pictures of crying women and exhausted children. Many Canadians urged government authorities to speed up the process of welcoming refugees to our land. The names and faces of those migrants and refugees were those who were complete strangers to us. Now many of them are happily settled among us. Government agencies, church groups and individuals have gone the second mile welcoming and caring for them. Many more are still waiting in desperate situations. Not only Syrians but refugees from other nations, too. 

It is a lonely feeling being a stranger. There are many Muslim international students and skilled immigrants who feel like strangers. Refugees receive a lot of initial attention but students and skilled immigrants are much more on their own. Having a good job and salary does not mean that it eliminates feeling like a stranger. They arrive as strangers to our land but unfortunately they can remain strangers unless we actually invite them into our homes and lives. Let us not forget the well to do Muslim neighbors.

Perhaps you were brought up to not talk to strangers. If not you, your children are probably being cautioned. Maybe you have even read a children's book warning about that. So, how do we respond to Jesus' words about inviting strangers into our homes?  

It does not take long for Muslim refugees, students, and skilled immigrants to seek out their Islamic community upon arrival. They feel like strangers in this land and being with us initially is not normally their comfort zone. If the barriers of being strangers between us will get broken it will usually have to be we who will need to make the first move.  Otherwise we will live in isolation from each other. Even now polarization is happening rapidly. There will always be some Muslims who will not want to go past their comfort zone but many really do want to get to know us.  It gives me enormous joy to host Muslims in my home. They start off as strangers but it does not take long until we become friends. It starts with a warm welcoming smile, a hello, small chit chat, a desire to see each other more, and on to mutual hospitality in our respective homes. Gradually we share our stories with each other which often permits us to share the Great Story of God's Love with them. We listen, cry, laugh, and pray together.  Now that is caring for HUMANS.  They want to be treated as humans, not strangers.

If there is anything profound which Muslims have taught me it is to welcome strangers into their homes. They have shown me how.   

Dear heavenly Father, I’ve been taught by my culture to not talk to strangers. But You tell me to invite strangers into my home. Help me to understand better what You mean. In Jesus’ name, Amen.